If you live where there is snow in the winter you have probably seen a roof ice dam. Roof ice dams look like icicle waterfalls that froze on the gutters and eaves of your house. Roof ice dams can cause very expensive damage to your home but there are things you can do to prevent roof ice dams from forming.
Roof ice dams happen because there is differential heating in the roof. The attic or peak of the roof gets the most heat because heat rises. When there is snow on your roof the snow on top of the house melts first due to heat from the house and more sunlight. The melting snow flows down the roof to the cooler parts of the roof – eaves and gutters – and refreezes into an ice dam.
The roof ice dam forms a barrier that prevents melting water from flowing off of the house like it does when it rains. A lot of snow makes the problem worse because snow is a good insulator and adds to the insulation of your roof or attic.
While roof ice dams may look nice they are dangerous and can cause damage to your home. Snow will melt faster than ice and a roof ice dam can eventually drop off and hit a person of your car. Roof ice dams can grow large enough to tear out entire sections of gutters and the wood the gutters are attached to.
Roof ice dams cause serious and expensive home damage. The melting water seeps up under the eaves and gets into the insulation. Depending on how much roof insulation and how much insulation in the walls of your home, the melted water can get into the wall board too. The damage usually happens around eaves because the eaves are the coldest part of the roof. Damage can also happen from roof ice dams that form in gutters. Unless you look for it you may not see the damage until the problem is large and expensive.
The worst case scenario is that you lose an entire wall due to mildew or water damage. You may end up having to replace part of your roof, eaves gutters too.
The good news is you can prevent most of the damage caused by roof ice dams. You can do some of these preventative measures yourself and some will require the work of a trained roofer.
In most situations roof ice dams are caused by poor insulation, inadequate ventilation of the roof, and gutters that are filled with debris. The real culprit is too much heat getting to your attic or the space between the roof and the top of the boards that make the roof of the rooms in your house.
Keeping your gutters clean can minimize the growth of ice dams on your roof. Gutters that are filled with debris get colder than the rest of the roof and allow ice dams to form.
If you have ice dams, you can make them melt by applying calcium chloride salt to the eaves and gutter of your home. This works just like putting salt on ice covered roads. The salt lowers the melting point of the ice and lets it turn to water. Depending on your age and how steep your roof is you may want an experienced professional to do this for you.
Raking the snow off your roof can also minimize the formation of roof ice dams.
Do not use axes, chisels, saws, blow torches, or chain saws to remove ice dams. These devices invariably end up damaging the roof, gutters, and eaves and cost you more.
Your best bet to remove ice dams is to call a professional and let them take care of your ice dam problem. This is safer for you, is efficient in terms of time, and comes with a guarantee. Professionals have insurance that will pay for any mistakes they might make. Damage caused by a professional is a very rare occurrence.
Your best and least expensive way to deal with ice dams is to prevent the two major causes of the problem – inadequate insulation and poor ventilation. This will require the work of a trained professional.
Anything that is a heat source in your attic is a problem in terms of the potential for ice dam formation on your roof. You need to insulate any exposed hot water pipes, insulate any lights that are exposed in your attic, insulate the motors of any ceiling fans that are exposed in your attic, and insulate any water heaters of furnace elements that are in the attic. You also need to have all the duct work that carries heat in your house insulated. Preventing excess heat in the attic prevents roof ice dams from forming.
Adding more insulation to your attic is also a good idea. A professional can help you calculate the right amount of insulation and the best type of insulation for your home. There are specific calculations that must be done to determine the right amount of insulation that will prevent ice dams from forming. There are usually laws that determine the minimum amount of insulation that is required in a roof. A roofing expert can do all of this work for you.
You may need to invest in an attic fan to increase the flow of air in your attic. The proper amount of air flow through the peak of the roof and the soffit can prevent the conditions that cause roof ice dams. A professional is your best source of options for your specific needs.
Roof ice dams do not have to be a concern or a cause of expensive repairs. Get a professional roofing expert to walk through the options that are tailored to your home and you will not have to deal with ice dams again.